There’s a story I’ve heard many times, about a couple of my directionally-challenged aunts, getting lost on their way from NYC to visit my family in central NY, many years ago.
They were missing in action for many hours, and finally, late at night, they called from a payphone. “We must be near Waterloo, because we passed Watertown quite a while ago. It’s very dark, and there’s nothing but trucks loaded with logs. The sign says ‘Last U.S. Exit.'”
If you don’t have a map handy, you just have to know, they’d driven north from The City, and neglected to ever turn west, toward my town. They’d just pressed on, northward, like Admiral Peary, and were calling from the Canadian border.
It was assumed by most, they’d arrived somewhere near the St. Lawrence River, and the province of Ontario. But I think people underestimate my aunts’ ability to misplace themselves, and it could’ve easily been near Quebec, or even New Brunswick.
If they ever have time, and a platinum gas card, I believe with all my heart, that they could outdo Moses, who only wandered in the desert for forty years, and they’ve been practicing for almost that long now.
The last time I told this, the listener wasn’t surprised about them getting lost, since they’re related to me, but they asked about the log trucks. And they were surprised when I mentioned logging in New York.
I don’t think these photos are all that special, but they’ll serve as illustrations. Folks who’ve only visited NYC, might not realize, that New York still has lumbering. While not on the scale of the Pacific Northwest or southern states, NY is on the top ten list for producing hardwoods, especially maple, oak, and cherry.
The pine trees in the photos are something different. Government foresters planted them to help stabilize worn-out farmland. That was years ago, and I think all of the pine plantations around the Fingers Lakes, state or federal, are now mature, or a bit past it.
As they were harvested, some were being replaced with red oaks, but mostly it appears to be left to windblown chance – – so it’ll probably end up with the usual suspects – – beech, maple, oak, hickory. Sometimes you’ll see cottonwoods and dense thickets of poplars springing up – – not very valuable for lumber, but good cover for grouse, quail & woodcock.
This region doesn’t have the large-scale chip- and pulpwood farming that goes on in the south, with it’s industrialized pine monoculture. The white pines are in decline around here, between logging, windstorms, a destructive fungus that attacks the needles, blister rust, and pine bark beetles & weevils.
I guess the plantations are “fake forests,” of course, but I have to confess, that walking in these groves, through the orderly rows of pencil-straight trees, has always appealed to me. They’re not that common around here, so it makes a nice change. Almost zero undergrowth, so you can march along inspecting ranks, not worrying about ticks or thorns, breathing that great pine-y air, with chipmunks skittering across your path.
Especially when it’s frosty outside, it’s great to take the path less traveled by, but it’s also nice to not get bent in the undergrowth, always having to watch for trail blazes, and just let your mind wander, knowing you’re on the straight and narrow.